There is a veranda surrounded by an untamed garden. You are seated in a chair, hair combed back. Languorous. The white marble emits an ethereal glow in the lazy midday sun. Your straw chair creaks mildly, the sound dampened by a plush cushion. The leaves of a nearby orange tree flicker despite the stillness of the vapid air. A few wispy clouds trail through the expanse of blue above you, unraveling as fresh, unwoven cotton. A few vines have slunk their way around fluted columns, tendrils caressing the unblemished stone. A thin scent of something baking escapes from an opened kitchen window; it is sweet, but fleeting. There might be a cat draped over the arm of a chair in the distance, or perhaps it is just a shadow.
You are wearing Jean Paul Gaultier Fleur du Male.
Initially shocking, the bottle of Fleur du Male is a man’s unclothed torso. Perfectly white and smooth, the more intimate parts have been smoothed out and now resemble a well sculpted Ken doll. With the perfect V-chest, the bottle is an easy pleasure to hold, all curves and angles melded together. While modesty may discourage some from leaving it out on display, I appreciate the artistry and proudly place it near the front of my collection. If nothing else, it certainly does spark interesting conversations.
Listed as being composed of petitgrain, orange blossom, coumarin, and fern, Fleur du Male certainly is a predominantly floral cologne. Upon the first spritz, the fragrance opens with a woody, earthy, orange accord, hearkening more of the small, almond-shaped leaves than the blossoms of the tree. The opening is a tad bitter, but not in an unpleasant way; I find it invigorating. The bitterness quickly smooths into what must be the orange blossom. It is soft, languid, and aeriform. And it actually smells of orange. Not synthetic, cleaning material citrus, but true, powdery, slightly acid fresh orange blossom. As the scent progresses, slightly sweet notes enter and mingle with the powdery blossoms. They bring to mind hazy images of a country home, aged straw, and butter cookies laced with a sweet liqueur.
As it settles into its base notes, Fleur du Male retains the orange blossom and gains a subtle mossy tone similar to freshly turned earth tumbled loosely at the base of a shade tree. A hint more powder emerges, resulting in a very fresh, clean finish. The sweetness of the middle notes have mostly gone by now, leaving only a pleasant vestige of their presence behind.
Although an eau de toilette, Fleur du Male is rather potent. Two spritzes last me through the day. Wear time is impressively long; after 18 hours, I can still detect traces of clinging softly to my wrists. Projection is mild at about two to three feet, but it works in mysterious ways: the powdery, seductive notes tend to project and fade farther, drawing others in to capture them with the distinct aura of complexity created by the softer notes that float closer to the body.
While some men may fear wearing something labeled as “floral”, Fleur du Male is certainly a men’s cologne. But just as certainly, it is not for every man. Or even most men. Fleur du Male is for the man who delights in his pleasures. He may still use a dab of hair oil to keep his locks in place. His smile is dashing and charming, enhanced by whitening that he would never admit to having done. His shirts are starched, but then left off the hanger. He enjoys the feeling of linen clothing. He may own an “estate” somewhere in the country. He knows his wines, and may be a collector, or have a private store room. And his wineglasses are Tiffany. His favorite color is something powdery and fresh. His shirt is always unbuttoned three down. He’ll get the occasional manicure, but requires buffing rather than polish. His car is never dirty, and has a sun roof. His boat shoes are suede and absolutely inappropriate for wearing anywhere other than a yacht. But that’s ok. He owns one. As do many of his friends.
Jean Paul Gaultier Fleur du Male is a cologne that was obviously not aimed at the mass market. Be it the potentially imposing bottle, the powerful floral notes, or the more languorously sensual nature of this fragrance, Fleur du Male will not be for most men. It demands a certain polished appearance and an offhanded care for grammar and enunciation. If you own a letter opener, this may be for you. Even if you don’t, you’d be foolish to not at least sample this exquisitely crafted cologne. The ingredients smell expensive, and none even hint at being synthetically manufactured. Just like the man who confidently strolls the Piazza, shirt unbuttoned three down, linen pants ruffling slightly in the breeze.